20 / 20 Vision for the Future




"Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape." – Anonymous


I've been fortunate over the past few weeks to spend a lot of time with some really great business leaders thinking about and working on the future. We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out WHERE each of these people wants their businesses to be. As we've gradually worked that out, we've put together plans for how they're going to make that happen. Pretty typical stuff.

What's struck me about that is that I've been reminded of a key part of change and working on the future. After all the talk about WHERE, and all the specific actions we're going to talk to get there, life happens. Stuff gets in the way. Things we thought we had to do to accomplish what we want are no longer relevant. Things we never dreamed of needing are suddenly crucial.

The first point is that we are simply not able to predict all future events with 100% accuracy. It just won't happen. Being able to successfully navigate change and the future doesn't mean being a great prognosticator. It means being great at being agile. Being able to sidestep landmines and jump over holes, even if you didn't see them until the last minute.

When unexpected barriers arise, it's not failure. Failure is quitting because you can't (or won't) adapt your plan to the reality you live in. As long as you are still going you haven't failed.

The other point is that with all the distractions and unexpected barriers, it's crucial that you have a clear picture in your head of WHERE you are going. The road may have bumps, and construction, and detours, and traffic jams, but as long as you know where you're trying to go, you can still make it.

A lot of businesses spend time planning for the future without really having that clear picture. So what they're really doing is planning for a bunch of stuff that's going to change, without having clearly defined the destination. That rarely ends well.

So think about your business (or life). Do you have a clear picture in your head of WHERE you want to be? Are you agile enough to handle the roadblocks that will come up, whether you expected them or not? If you can't answer yes to both questions, then rough times are coming your way.




Article reproduced with the kind permission of Matt Heemstra
Matt is a director of Cain Ellsworth & Co. LLP, USA.
For over fifteen years he has worked with small and mid-size businesses, helping them to envision their future and then make it happen.
Matt heads up Growth & Profit Solutions (GPS), a division of Cain Ellsworth.